Honors Project Summaries, 2014-2015

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Anthropology

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Art and Art History

Writer: Zain Ali
Faculty Advisor: John Shimon
Topic: Searching for India
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Art

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Art

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Biochemistry

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Biology

Writer: Christopher Acy
Faculty Advisor: Bart De Stasio
Topic: Tolerance of the Invasive New Zealand Mud Snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) to Decontamination Procedures
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Decontamination procedures for invasive species have been created by state governments in an attempt to stop the spread of these species. However, previous studies have documented that different species vary in their tolerance of the procedures used to date. The New Zealand Mud Snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) is invasive to the United States and may alter the food chain of native trout populations due to the snail’s high reproduction ability. We collected mud snails from the recently invaded Black Earth Creek, WI and tested their tolerance to decontamination protocols being considered by the Wisconsin DNR. Treatments included immersion in bleach (200 ppm), salt (35 ppt), Formula 409 (100%), and the recommended standard treatment of Virkon (2.0%). We also tested effectiveness of spraying vs. immersion of Formula 409 and interference of mud with the cleaning procedure. Snails remained viable after immersion for up to 30 minutes in bleach and salt baths but exposure to Formula 409 baths killed all snails after 10 minutes. The effectiveness of spraying was more variable than immersion; however the percentage mortality in both techniques was significantly decreased by the presence of mud. These results provide a scientific basis for future invasive species management decisions.

 

Biology

Writer: Emily Kiehnau
Faculty Advisor: Bart De Stasio
Topic: The Characterization of a Vital Wisconsin Waterway: A Biological Assessment of the Lower Fox River from 2006 to 2014
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The Lower Fox River has historically been used as a navigational crossroads, a waste disposal system, and source of hydroelectric power. Heavy use of the river has negatively affected water quality and the overall health of the system. Unhealthy rivers cannot function properly. Biological assessment based on animal surveys are often used to determine river health. I used data from the Lawrence University and Fox River Navigational System Authority invasive species-monitoring project to explore how the distribution of animals in the Fox River has changed over time and across locations. Monitoring surveys have taken place between June and August at six sites along the river from 2006 to 2014. The field data consist of a combination of presence-absence and abundance data for zooplankton, benthic invertebrate, and fish populations. There are clear trends in the community composition of animals in the river over time and across locations. Compositions of fish and benthic invertebrate populations of a given site remained similar across time but varied among sites. In contrast, compositions of zooplankton populations in a given year were fairly similar across sites but varied among years. This study provides important ecological data that can be used for future decision making.

 

Biology

Writer: Zechariah Meunier
Faculty Advisor: Alyssa Hakes
Topic: Flowers in space attacked by aliens: Understanding the spatial ecology behind the devastating damage by a thistle bud weevil on Pitcher's thistle at Whitefish Dunes State Park, WI
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One of the most threatened plants in the Great Lakes region is Pitcher’s thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), which inhabits sand dunes along the shorelines of Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior. In addition to risks from habitat loss and invasive species, C. pitcheri are imperiled by a thistle bud weevil (Larinus planus) that was originally introduced for biological control of nonnative thistles. During the summer of 2014, we studied the devastating damage caused by L. planus on a population of C. pitcheri at Whitefish Dunes State Park, WI. To determine what factors influence the distribution and damage of L. planus, we devised three treatments isolating the effects of elevation and neighboring plant density. Our experiment revealed that the low elevation treatment with the greater neighboring plant density experienced the most damage during both the early and late season assessments. Additionally, we demonstrated that different factors affect damage during the early season compared to the late season. Finally, we analyzed the thistle-weevil system from a spatial ecology perspective. These results have important implications for studies of insect seed predation, offer a cautionary tale about biological control, and inform efforts to conserve C. pitcheri.

 

Biology

Writer: Alexandra Poli
Faculty Advisor: Bart De Stasio
Topic: Does behavior contribute to invasion success? Diel Vertical Migration of an invasive calanoid copepod, Eurytemora affinis, in Little Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
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Eurytemora affinis, a calanoid copepod, is known to be a versatile, prolific invader of freshwater ecosystems across the globe. It has recently been documented in the Laurentian Great Lakes, including in Little Sturgeon Bay, an embayment of Lake Michigan. One survival mechanism that could make E. affinis a successful invader is diel vertical migration (DVM), a behavior in which animals move to different lakes depths at different times of day in order to avoid predation. Much is known about DVM of E. affinis, but primarily from studies in marine and brackish systems.   Our goal was to investigate how E. affinis responds to its new, non-native freshwater environment, and to make inferences about its invasive success. During the summer of 2014, samples were taken at Little Sturgeon Bay twice on four days—once at noon and again at night. Samples were collected at one-meter intervals from one near shore site and one offshore site. Body size and darkness of different life stages of E. affinis were evaluated to determine stage-dependent differences in visual predation risk. Abundance of E. affinis was determined at each depth of each site to describe diel patterns of movement through the water column.  Results show significant differences among life stages in both length and visual area, but not our measure of darkness.  Magnitude of DVM was greater near shore than in the offshore habitat. This may be a result of greater predation pressure near shore. The magnitude of DVM was also stage-dependent, with adults performing a more drastic migration than copepodites. This stage-dependency could be a result of differing visual predation risk, since copepodites are smaller than adults.

Biology

Writer: Thomas Arian Sasani
Faculty Advisor: Brian Piasecki
Topic: Worms Have Feelings, Too: Characterization of a Novel Gene Associated with Sensory Cilia in Characterization of a Novel Gene Associated with Sensory Cilia in Caenorhabitis elegans
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Cilia are microtubule-based organelles that facilitate a variety of sensory and motility-specific processes. Mutations in genes that encode cilia-specific proteins can manifest as highly devastating diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease and Bardet-Biedl syndrome. In this study, a comparative genomics approach was used to identify ciliary genes that facilitate sensory-specific roles. One gene from this candidate list (encoded at the C05D10.2 locus in the C. elegans genome) was chosen for comprehensive characterization. We discovered that a mutant strain of C. elegans that possesses a deletion mutation within the C05D10.2 coding sequence exhibits a highly penetrant dye-filling defect in phasmid ciliated sensory neurons (CSNs). This phenotype was almost completely rescued by introducing a wild-type copy of the C05D10.2 gene into mutant animals. Additionally, we observed that a translational fusion of the full C05D10.2 coding sequence to green fluorescent protein (GFP) is expressed in anterior and posterior sensory neurons in C. elegans, and specifically localizes to the cilia at the tips of those neurons. Finally, preliminary data obtained from an automated worm-tracking system suggest that mutant worms that lack a functional copy of C05D10.2 roam more than wild-type animals. These combined data strongly suggest a sensory-specific role of C05D10.2 in C. elegans, and are corroborated by evidence that the human homolog of C05D10.2 may be associated with cilia function, as well.

 

Biology

Writer: Savannah Vogel
Faculty Advisor: Elizabeth De Stasio
Topic: Determining Isoform Specificity of the Caenorhabitis elegans Transcription Factor DAF-19
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Though the pathologies associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have been known for many years, we still lack a complete understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind these devastating diseases. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a model organism with a simple nervous system that has given biologists a better understanding of the mechanisms of cell division, apoptosis, and other fundamental concepts of cell and molecular biology. Study of the C. elegans RFX transcription factor DAF-19 has helped us better understand the development of the nervous system. Previous research demonstrated that four distinct protein isoforms are encoded for by the daf-19 gene. DAF-19C is an isoform of the transcription factor known to be necessary for cilia development of the sensory neurons of C. elegans. DAF-19M is involved in specification of male-specific sensory neurons. Recent studies have shown that the isoforms DAF-19A and/or DAF-19B function to maintain protein homeostasis at the neuronal synapses. We used extra-chromosomal transgene arrays containing the control regions of one of two target genes fused with GFP to determine if these genes are DAF-19 dependent. We compared expression of these transgenes in WT worms and in worms without functional DAF-19. Additionally, we characterized two novel daf-19a/b isoform-specific variations using RT-PCR and analyzed the expression of the DAF-19 dependent skr-12 transgene in the presence of one of these isoform-specific variations. We found that skr-12, an E3 ligase ortholog potentially involved in ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation, appears to be repressed by DAF-19A/B in non-sensory cells of the nervous system, while expression of asm-3, a gene potentially involved in the degradation of sphingomyelin, is not DAF-19 dependent.

 

Chemistry

Writer: Cosonya Smith
Faculty Advisor: David Hall
Topic: Rhinoviral-Induced Inflammation - Differential Activation of Transcription Factors by Human Rhinovirua 16 & 11A in Human Macrophages
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Computer Science

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Economics

Writer: Elizabeth P. Armstrong
Faculty Advisor: Jonathan Lhost and Merton Finkler
Topic: A Royal Problem: Planning Induced Supply Constraints in London
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We explore the impact of regulatory supply constraints on house price levels during boom and bust periods in London. We hypothesize that when regulatory restrictiveness increases, house prices will be higher during boom periods and lower during bust periods compared to house prices in less restricted areas. We empirically test our hypothesis using a balanced panel dataset of 32 boroughs, ranging from 2005 to 2009. Our analysis reveals that our hypothesis holds true. A borough with a strict planning authority will have higher house prices during a boom period and lower house prices during a bust period compared to prices in a borough with a more lenient planning authority.

 

Economics

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English

Writer: Allison Juda
Faculty Advisor: Timothy Spurgin
Topic: Jane Austen's Liminal Heroine
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Jane Austen’s six novels all follow a liminal heroine through her journey of personal growth, ultimately concluding with the success of the heroine and her society. In my project I examine how this liminal plot structure works, combining anthropological theories of liminality (most prominently those of Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner) with the narrative structure of Austen’s novels. The growth of the heroine through the phases of liminality and eventual reintegration into society is marked by several challenges to the morality of the heroine. Yet, these challenges are, in fact, tests for the society just as much as they are trials for the individual. In accomplishing her own individual growth the Austen heroine pushes her society towards morality so that by the conclusion of the novel not only are the characters worthy of their roles, but society has grown to become worthy of the heroine as well. It is not just important that both segments grow, but crucial to the eventual reintegration of the liminal heroine. The different forms that this mirrored growth takes in Austen’s novels suggests the importance of the liminal journey as a narrative device but also as a means of correcting a flawed community.

 

Ethnic Studies

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Ethnomusicology

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Gender Studies

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Geology

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Government

Writer: Rhys Kuzdas
Faculty Advisor: Ameya Balsekar
Topic: Irredentism in the Near Abroad: A Comparative Analysis of Russian Mass Mobilization in Kazakhstan and Ukraine
Summary: Ukraine and Kazakhstan share several significant features in terms of demographic distribution of ethnic Russians, substantial ethnic and historical grievances from the Soviet and transition experiences, and shared borders with Russia.  However, though sharing these similarities, substantial intercommunal conflict and sustained calls for irredentism amongst the borderlands has manifested only in Ukraine and not so in Kazakhstan.  This comparative study focuses on identifying the reason why ethnic grievances have manifested into mass mobilization and calls for reunification with Russia in the one case, while remaining effectively mute in the other.  Incorporating data from several sources including the Minorities at Risk project, several theoretical hypothesis are approached and tested to explain the phenomenon.  In addition, an analysis of the role that “Host State” and “Home State” actions have played in increasing or decreasing these tensions can identify practical measures that can be taken to decrease the likelihood of intercommunal conflict.

 

Government

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History

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Mathematics and Computer Science

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Music Education

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Music History

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Physics

Writer: Daniel Martinez Zambrano
Faculty Advisor: Jeffrey Collett
Topic: Reconstruction of the surface of freely suspended films of heptyloxybenzylidene heptylaniline
Summary: Surfaces of freely suspended thick films of 4-n-heptyloxybenzylidene-4-n-heptylaniline (7O.7) in the crystalline-B phase have been imaged using non-contact mode atomic force microscopy. Steps are observed on the surface of the film with a height of 3.0 +/- 0.1 nm corresponding to the upright molecular length of 7O.7. In addition, we find that the step width varies with temperature between 56 and 59 degrees C. The steps are many times wider than the molecular length suggesting that the steps are not on the surface, but instead originate from edge dislocations in the interior.  Using a strain model for liquid crystalline layers above an edge dislocation to estimate the depth of the dislocation, we estimate that the number of reconstructed surface layers decreases from 50 to 4 layers as the temperature increases from 56 to 59 degrees C. This trend tracks the behavior of the phase boundary in the thickness dependent phase diagram of freely suspended films of 7O.7, suggesting that the surface may be reconstructed into a Smectic-F phase.

 

Psychology

Writer: Yifat Levenstein
Faculty Advisor: Lori Hilt
Topic: Eating Attitudes and Behaviors: A Cross Cultural Comparison
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Eating disorders affect young women globally. In the United States, a sociocultural model has been proposed to explain the relationship between eating disorders and Western culture. In Western societies thinness is highly valued and is promoted via the mass media and reinforced through social agents, such as parents and peers, putting women at risk for developing an eating disorder (Thompson & Stice, 2001). Cross-cultural research suggests that globalization has spread these ideal; however, the role of culture in the risk for eating disorders has been mixed (Stiegel-Moore & Bulik, 2007; Soh, Touyz, & Surgenor, 2006). Since prevalence rates for eating disorders are similar in both the United States and in Israel, this study seeks to examine whether the same sociocultural factors that put women at risk for eating disorders in the United States also apply to Israeli women, despite cultural differences. To test this hypothesis, we constructed an online survey to measure the mechanisms of disordered eating among Israeli and American women.


One-hundred-ninety eight American women (Mage=20, SD=2.03) and 122 Israeli women (Mage = 23.52, SD = 2.55) participated. Participants were recruited through an online advertisement in both English and Hebrew with a link to the survey. Validated measures included: The Sociocultural Attitude Toward Appearance Scale (Thompson et al., 2004), Body Image Assessment Scales (Gardner & Jappe,2009; Thompson & Gray, 1995), Self-Objectification Questionnaire (Fredrickson et al., 1998; Noll & Fredrickson, 1998), Beck Anxiety Inventory (Beck & Steer, 1993), Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996), and Rumination Response Scale (Treynor, Gonzalez, & Nolen-Hoeksema, 2003). To test for pathological eating attitudes and behaviors, we used The Eating Attitudes Test (Garner et al, 1982). To assess how much sociocultural pressure women feel to be thin, we designed The Pressure to be Thin Scale. All materials were translated from English to Hebrew and then back translated from Hebrew to English.


A two tail-t test revealed that American women have significantly higher internalization of the athletic body type, perceived pressure from the media, and pressure to be thin compared to Israeli women. Israeli women reported significantly higher levels of self-objectification, rumination, brooding, and maladaptive eating attitudes and behaviors than did American women. Regression models revealed that rumination, depression, anxiety, internalization of the thin ideal, body dissatisfaction, pressure to be thin and country of residence all significantly predicted eating pathology (adjusted R² = 58, F(11, 128)=18.732, p< .001). A second model including interactions by country was not significant, suggesting that mechanisms were similar between countries. Thus, although Israeli women reported higher rates of eating pathology, the same mechanisms explained eating pathology among women in both countries. We concluded that the sociocultural model that explains the relationship between the environment and eating pathology among American women may also apply to Israeli women. This study showed how pervasive Western beauty ideology, such as the thin ideal, is to eating pathology among women in a country that is not a traditional Western country.

Psychology

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Psychology

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Psychology

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Spanish

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